Called into the healing ministries
August 28, 2018 / By Jessica Glaser, Commissioned for the work of Deacon
Editor’s Note: This article was written in April 2018 before Glaser was commissioned. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate.
I first felt the call to ministry close to 10 years ago, when I lived in Denver. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a deacon. I was inspired by one of the deacons at my church who also served as a labor organizer. I knew that compassion and justice were what I was called to do. My work at Asbury Amherst, my church home, has confirmed that I want to stay connected to ministry in the parish as well as working outside in the community.
My work in Buffalo over the years has led me toward healing ministries in a variety of capacities. The clinics I serve treat patients with many complex conditions that are often exacerbated by mental illness, poverty, and/or substance abuse. Through this work, I have learned a great deal about the opportunities and challenges in transforming our health care system, and I have served for six years as a witness and an advocate for change within it. Now I am starting to consider what fosters healing in a spiritual sense, and the interface of spiritual and physical healing.
I am very interested in learning more about trauma-informed care and trauma-informed ministry, especially since some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities often struggle with past and/or ongoing trauma, and this negatively impacts their physical health. I have collaborated with a team at Asbury Amherst to create a monthly prayer and healing service. I have trained as a mercy doula with a team at Erie County Medical Center and plan to increase my time doing that work in the coming year. Finally, I was recently appointed as the Abundant Health Ambassador for Upper New York Annual Conference and look forward to exploring the health challenges throughout the Conference to discover the places where people are hurting and where they feel they need healing.
Why should the church be involved in this kind of work? To quote Rev. Bobby Baker, the co-founder of the Congregational Health Network in Memphis, “Life is more than just spending our days beating back death.” The health care industry is interested in healing the body, but we are interested in the healing of the soul; after all, one of the offices of Christ is that of Physician.
The healing of the body and soul are deeply intertwined, as demonstrated by Jesus’ work of healing in the gospels. If Jesus was moved by the suffering of others, including the sick, shouldn’t we be moved as well? Isn’t that, after all, why we as churches engage in chaplaincy in hospitals and nursing homes? Why we send cards to people in our congregations who are sick? I am hoping to explore and contribute to this level of healing integration, creating a stronger circle of care that sustains quality as well as quantity of life.